A Belgian beer bar opens in Hampden

The American craft beer explosion has resulted in more discerning palates and a legion of drinkers willing more than ever to try foreign imports and brews crafted with an experimental spirit. So it's a bit surprising that the best beer lists in Hampden belong to Birroteca and Golden West Cafe, mainly because they're the only two even trying to go beyond what you can find at just about any bar. Enter De Kleine Duivel (3602 Hickory Ave., facebook.com/dekleineduivel), a Belgian brasserie nearly four years in the making that finally found a home in the old banquet hall of the Improved Order of Red Men space on Hickory Avenue. The bar already boasts 40 beers from the Western European country, and owner Paul Kopchinski says he hopes to eventually have nearly twice that number. Additionally, there are plans to bring a full-service kitchen into the large space in January. At the bar on a recent night, both servers, dressed in shirts and ties, were attentive when our group approached. We tried a Silly Sour Ale ($7) (yes, that's really the name) and a Lindemans Framboise ($7), both deliciously tart. The interior of De Kleine Duivel is a bit spartan at the moment, with a handsome art nouveau bar but little adorning the walls in a space that feels massive despite the tables and chairs occupying the square footage. As one of our companions noted, it kind of feels like hanging out in your uncle's basement. But with the plans for improvement already in place and an atmosphere that's still a bit of a blank canvas, with time, this could be a real gem.

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